Is there a market solution to the feral hog problem?
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Texans have been struggling with the feral hog problem in the state for years now, and it’s pretty clear that traditional hunting and trapping methods aren’t enough to contain their growth.
What if, instead of using poison (regardless of whether it’s warfarin- or sodium nitrite-based) to control hog numbers, there was a market-based solution to the problem? That’s what some researchers from Texas A&M University-Galveston are trying to do with invasive numbers of lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico.
It remains to be seen how well that plan will work with lionfish in the long run, but it’s at least worth considering if that’s a realistic way to help with the hog problem as well.
Originally from the Indian and Pacific oceans, lionfish started appearing off the Atlantic coast of Florida in the 1980s. Though nobody knows for sure how they got there, it’s very likely that they somehow made it from a private aquarium into the ocean.
Similar to feral hogs, lionfish are incredibly prolific breeders and, with no predators to keep their numbers in check, lionfish populations in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico have exploded over the past few decades.
The fish are causing all sorts of problems with native ecosystems and researchers have struggled to deal with the issue. The idea of promoting lionfish as a food source has really taken off in recent years though.
As long as they’re handled and cooked properly, lionfish are both safe to eat and pretty darn tasty. For this reason, conservationists are now trying to increase public awareness about the situation and encourage "conspicuous consumption" of the fish.
According to Raven Walker, a researcher at Texas A&M-Galveston, "The idea of conspicuous consumption is that you make something seem like a popular item or an item of wealth. We're trying to show that lionfish is a good item to eat to drive the demand to create fisheries."
They hope that increased demand for their meat will encourage a larger harvest of the fish from areas where lionfish are nonnative. Lionfish are probably here to stay, but this could be a successful plan to control their numbers and prevent their spread into new areas.
Could it work with feral hogs?
Just like with lionfish, hog meat is delicious and safe to eat if it’s handled and prepared carefully. Some companies are already in the feral hog market as well and there are multiple facilities in Texas buying live and dead wild hogs for restaurants and pet food.
If demand for hog meat continues to grow, then it’s possible that we’ll see even more companies looking to purchase feral hogs. Right now, most people harvesting feral pigs are doing so for personal reasons.
However, if there were a significant monetary incentive for people to remove feral hogs from the wild, then that could provide a strong incentive for new people to get involved and for those already hunting or trapping hogs on a small scale to step things up in order to satisfy that demand for hog meat.
Now, there’s no guarantee that this idea will work. It’s also possible that we’ll have to deal with other issues that stem from this strategy down the line. On the other hand, this idea could also be just what we need to start rolling back feral numbers in the state.
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